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For use of the word in the New Testament and Christian theology, see Monogenēs.
Release poster
Directed by E. Elias Merhige
Produced by E. Elias Merhige
Written by E. Elias Merhige
  • Brian Salzberg
  • Donna Dempsey
  • Stephen Charles Barry
Music by
  • Evan Albam
  • Diamanda Galas
Cinematography E. Elias Merhige
Edited by Noëlle Penraat
Release dates
Running time
72 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent
Budget $33,000 (estimated)

Begotten is a 1990 American experimental horror film, written, produced and directed by E. Elias Merhige.[1]

The film deals with the story of Genesis, re-imagining it. The second film of the unofficial trilogy, a 14-minute film entitled Din of Celestial Birds, deals with evolution. It premiered in 2006 on Turner Classic Movies, and was shot in similar visual fashion.[citation needed]


The story opens with a robed, profusely bleeding "God" disemboweling itself, with the act ultimately ending in its death. A woman, Mother Earth, emerges from its remains, arouses the body, and impregnates herself with its semen. Becoming pregnant, she wanders off into a vast and barren landscape. The pregnancy manifests in a fully grown convulsing man whom she leaves to his own devices. The "Son of Earth" meets a group of faceless nomads who seize him with what is either a very long umbilical cord or a rope. The Son of Earth vomits organic pieces, and the nomads excitedly accept these as gifts. The nomads finally bring the man to a fire and burn him. "Mother Earth" encounters the resurrected man and comforts him. She seizes the man with a similar umbilical cord. The nomads appear and proceed to rape her. Son of Earth is left to mourn over the lifeless body. A group of characters appear, carry her off and dismember her, later returning for Son of Earth. After he, too, is dismembered, the group buries the remains, planting the parts into the crust of the earth. The burial site becomes lush with flowers.


  • Brian Salzberg – God Killing Himself[2]
  • Donna Dempsey – Mother Earth
  • Stephen Charles Barry – Son of Earth


Begotten features no dialogue, but uses harsh and uncompromising images of human pain and suffering to tell its tale. It also has little music, and is instead accompanied by the sounds of crickets, and occasionally other sound effects such as grunting and thrashing. It was shot on black and white reversal film, and then every frame was rephotographed for the high-contrast look that it presents. The look is described in the trailer as "a Rorschach test for the eye". Merhige said that for each minute of original film, it took up to 10 hours to rephotograph it for the look desired.[citation needed]


The film was later released on DVD in 2001 by World Artists.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Critical reception for the film has been mostly positive. Jonathan Rosenbaum from the Chicago Reader praised the film calling it "a remarkable if not extremely upsetting and gory black-and-white experimental feature", further stating: "If you're squeamish you should avoid this like the plague; others may find it hard to shake off the artistry and originality of this visionary effort. And if you're looking to be freaked out you shouldn't pass it up."[5] Susan Sontag called it "one of the 10 most important films of modern times".[6] It currently holds a 63% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[7] The film is currently banned in Singapore.[8]


  1. ^ Maslin, Janet (1991-06-05). "Begotten". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Cast and Crew information – Allmovie". 
  3. ^ "Begotten (1991) - Releases - AllMovie". Allmovie. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  4. ^ Hall, Phil. "Begotten Not Forgotten". Retrieved 22 June 2014. 
  5. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Begotten | Chicago Reader". Chicago Reader. Jonathan Rosenbaum. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "Allmovie – Begotten". 
  7. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes – Begotten". 
  8. ^ "List of Banned Films". Retrieved 22 June 2014. 

External links[edit]